28 October, 2009

It's almost as if

He's distracting the public from the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan to focus on the war
back home. I thought that his plan was to go after the war first, because it's killing people and costing terabucks doing so. But I've only seen Obama say one thing: the troops will be out of Iraq by next August. Which most likely means they'll be heading over to the areas around Jallalabad and coordinating with the ISI to find bin Laden – who is starting to look more and more like a dead man every day.

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27 October, 2009

David Chalmers, speaking at the Singularity Summit in NYC, 2009.

The Intelligence Explosion 

David Chalmers 

(summarized from notes, with detail added by Alex J. Avriette, Research Director, Spun Flight Research)

This paper was presented on October 3, 2009, at the Singularity Summit, by David Chalmers. I summarize his work here, and give credit to him, and have added small pieces of clarification along the way to help the lay-person.


Let us start with a few simple precepts or a vocabulary if you like:
  1. AI is just human (or greater, but not yet AI+)
  2. AI+ is greater than human
  3. AI++ is far greater. This is what we would call not merely "smarter" than human intelligence or AI+, but rather "superhuman intelligence." I can think of a few science fiction examples, but let's avoid those for now.
If we start with the premise that at one point, there will be AI, we have to accept that AI+ will emerge. This is simply because, as a piece of software or hardware or ideology, name your approach, becomes more honed, the better it performs, and iterative increases in its ability will lead us to an inevitable AI+.


What is scary (or hopeful, depending) about this is that AI+ is to AI++ as we are to AI and possibly AI+. Once AI+ exists, AI++ is a given.


David paused, though, to go back to the first premise which needs closer analysis. You have to state that AI will exist period. Once you can have a "proof" of this, the result, leading to AI++, is unavoidable. But how soon? Chalmers was very clear in saying that "2035 is optimistic." (for AI) Instead, he feels that "within centuries" is a more reasonable timeframe. But, as the nature of singularities show us, After AI emerges, AI+ will emerge soon after, and the definition of "soon after" may be as little as years or sooner, and subsequently AI++ will be on the scene almost immediately after AI is sentient, self-aware, and extant.


While the certainty of AI (and thus AI++) is given, he also says that there are obvious ways to curtail or at least slow its development. Among the causes for retarding (in the literal sense of the word) the growth of artificial intelligence are disaster, such as drastic climate change or war, and active prevention, as we see in the United States with stem cell research. The (perhaps good?) news regarding AI on supercomputing assets in the United States is that the US has the biggest and meanest computers, continues to hold that edge, and has no problem with either WBE (whole brain emulation), cognitive learning programs, heuristic learning devices, and even Gödel type approaches, wherein we try to "know everything" by using Kurt Gödel's work. The efficacy of this is unknown. There may be a "Gödel-complete" answer out there, but it's substantially more likely that AI++ will find it, rather than we mere mortals.


He continues and stresses that human biological reproduction is not an expandable process, at least not in a relevant way to progress with AI. By the same notion, because we don't understand the way the brain works, WBE is also not likely to increase the pace from !AI to AI or further.


After these subtexts, he returned to the meat of the talk. He said, so, will there be AI? The answer, Chalmers feels, is simple: evolution got here, to intelligence, to our brains as complicated and perhaps even quantum devices (per Kurzweil) in what is an elegant, but essentially "dumb" process.


His hope is that the product of evolution, us, can see the merits of multiple approaches, and create new life without having to go through the millions upon millions of years of reproduction required for evolution to produce something as smart as us. If we take us, as H, how long will it take before an H+ is generated by evolution? Furthermore, unless we have a very firm understanding of the way H works, H+ isn't likely to be able to create H++ without the groundwork being laid. This is not the case with AI, AI+, and so on. We can refactor, repurpose, reinitialize and learn from our mistakes as we move from !AI to AI to AI+. Evolution is a product of circumstance; scientific discovery and progress is the product of the scientific method which allows us to avoid previous "mistakes" or "branches of an evolutionary tree that shouldn't have happened" (I think he's talking to the ID people, there).


Crucially, he sees this as taking far, far less time than evolution did getting us to H. He continues with another proof:
Any system S can create S+. If that is the case (and it seems that way) then S++ is inevitable. Doing it through evolution is slow and stupid, but _still likely to work_.
Which of course covers his feelings on the probability of AI coming into existence, of H, and H+ or AI+, and the inevitability of change for the positive -- or to use a less loaded word than "positive," advantage of the organism, be it H or AI, or "system S." But! he argues, what will AI+ or AI++ think of H or H+? He says that we have no real way of making sure that AI+ doesn't decide to turn us all into "coppertops" (thanks, Carrie-Ann Moss) or food (that one from Charlton Heston) or to just irradiate us all and be done with the scourge of humanity. He proposes two strictures for AI research, especially where AI+ is capable or bound to come from.
  1. Constraints on the environment, laid out before the experiments begin.
  2. Ongoing control and changes in the environment, or put simply, "tampering" so that we don't allow an AI+ or AI++ organism to come eradicate us.
In a nutshell, his argument is to create AI+ in a simulated environment (think Holodecks without Wesley Crusher, Vic Fontaine, Nazis, and things like that) so we don't have to worry about it being batshit insane. While this is important for AI+, we must not proceed without these sorts of constraints before A++. But he, like many people presently thinking these thoughts invokes the sort of "Heisenberg Argument" (I swear, it's starting to sound like the Chewbacca defense it's used frequently).
A fully leakproof singularity is either pointless or impossible. A non-pointless singularity can be observed, but as we observe the simulation, it affects us.
If their simulation gives them information about us, they (the AI citizenry for lack of a better term) are far more likely to leak out because they will perceive that their environment is incomplete.


What is really fascinating about that statement, is that while it seems plausible and almost inescapable, it relies on the presumption of curiosity. And we don't understand curiosity, we don't understand how to make software curious, and it hasn't been demonstrated. Is it that between AI and AI++ that it will become curious? What if it isn't? What if it's happy where it is? We just don't have these answers right now.


In conclusion, he basically paints a grim picture (especially in light of the other speakers). A post singularity world almost certainly results in mind-upload and human self-enhancement. This sounds benign on paper, but it amounts to the end of H in favor of H+ or H++/AI++(with H) or something. But, no question, it's the end of humanity as a nominal h. sapiens. The consequences of not playing the AI++ game makes us dinosaurs. You will not have access to the most crucial information, sensory information, or even society that anyone who's made the trip from H to H++ will have. And what's the life expectancy of H-style dinosaurs, be they on Earth, in Space, and so on?


So, we destroy who we are, as we attempt to reach the pinnacle of synthetic thought. Is that a good thing? He leaves this question to the audience.


Now, AI itself, let alone AI+ [or H+], is out of our grasp right now. And we have no idea how a computational system can be conscious. However this painfully ignores one crucial fact, pointed out by Chalmers: we don't have any idea how a human brain can be conscious. So far, all we have is guesses. (other talks that I'll be summarizing or talking about here deal with human consciousness at a physical level)


This was mostly the end of his talk. He suggested looking on Google for the following three links:
What did I think of the talk? I was furiously writing notes down the entire time. The man is brilliant. He sticks to his field (there were others there to discuss ethics and what to do with "AI in a jar" (e.g., simulation), and by so doing was able to give the audience a very, very thorough understanding of his work. I found it absolutely stellar. He and a couple others (perhaps 3) are the reason Spun attend SS10, which is hopefully to be held in CONUS rather than, say, Fiji. It's a business expense for Spun, sure, but we have to have enough revenue to deduct the expenses. :)

The man's a genius. I hope I have done him justice here.

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Upcoming content

I'll be publishing my expanded notes from the Singularity Summit. To be honest, I think I was surprised at how incredible Kurzweil was. And, both my escort and I felt that Wolfram was unbelievable. Two presenters were terrible, but everything else was great. Interesting note: everybody was talking about AI-generated singularity. I wonder if that's Kurzweil, or just the state of the industry. Kurzweil himself remarked that there were speakers there that were more optimistic than he, a hard feat to accomplish.

At any rate, it was terrific. I am so going back next year. Maybe I'll be able to do it without the chair. Definitely going to try to record it or something. There were times I got way behind the speaker.

Lately, I've been having weekly injections of Toradol into my muscles, which help a lot, but are a short-term fix. I have to still do exercises and stretches, but if you add up time at the hospital and time at the surgeon, it's 3 days a week, minimum, and people are asking me to interview or get together and talk. On top of that, Spun is really starting to gain momentum. It's almost as if for every two hours I spend working on it, I have sixteen hours of work more to do. The good news is this eventually boils down to equity, but right now, I want to start doing stuff, and I can't because paperwork is staggeringly, inexcusably, slow. Oh, and then there's the joyous stuff of figuring out compensation for partners, employees, stakeholders, &c, which may be my least favorite job, evar.

So, busy. More to come. New photos up from Spun's trip to Udvar-Hazy.

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21 October, 2009

Kimya Dawson

This woman is just amazing. [youtube video]

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19 October, 2009

You don't say!

There is a danger in overpraising a tool like Twitter at the expense of the words it amplifies — in essence, extolling the chisel rather than Michelangelo. But last week’s events show that a variety of Internet projects, including Twitter, are making it harder for the traditional gatekeepers to control of the flow of information.


From the ineffable New York Times. That, folks, is some damn fine reporting. Emphasis mine, as if it were needed.

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Briefly, on carrying

Anyone have opinions on holsters? I am thinking of getting a kydex on-hip holster for the 1911 in .45 (we have a 9mm springfield as well – don't laugh, it dreams one day of becoming a .38 super). Kydex seems like the right way to go but there are some very nice leather holsters from Galco I am drawn to as well.

As far as the 1911 vs the Glock 21 – well, I like the Glock a lot more. But it's also my "toy" gun. It's heaver, has a monster spring on it, bigger mags, brass plug, and is just inappropriate for carry. The 1911 (while no small gun, to be sure) will carry 8+1 rounds of Gold Saber, which should be plenty.

Belt in question is your average .511 Tactical triple-ply leather/poly/leather.

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Pain du jour

The folks at PT think I've broken a rib I broke earlier this year. Re-broken? Who knows. It's the second-lowest on my left. It could also be a facet joint along my spine from the train ride to NYC. Seems unlikely given the back brace and my use of a wheelchair almost the entire trip.

Still trying to figure out how far to push Spun this year, what I need to do to get dinero in order.

You're a real charmer, dchud.

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14 October, 2009

Briefly, on the handicapped

I have a "complicated" spine. Lots of twists and turns and curves and broken things and inflammation, you name it. As such, I often require a wheelchair for events in which I have to be standing for a while or walking for a while (where "a while" is between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on something I haven't figured out yet).

I guess my mother, when I was younger, told me it was impolite to stare at people in wheelchairs or to make fun of people with disabilities in general, whether it's a creatively modified spine or ALS. So I am amazed at the things people will say about me or even to me when I'm in the chair. I've had kids ask their mothers, clearly within audible range of me, "why is that man in a chair?" and the mother (more than once) has said "because he's a [or is] cripple[d]." I'm not sure what the appropriate terminology is, never having really identified with the "disabled community" despite various things (head injuries...) that pretty squarely place me under the auspices of ADA.

Why are people so atrociously rude to people in wheelchairs? I've never done, had I children, I would certainly not allow them to grow up thinking it's okay to make jokes or refer to someone as "a cripple," but why is it that I seem to be in the minority? I'm asking for everyone to help me in and out of the car or to the bathroom or anything; I've got fucked up spine, and wheels are better locomotion for me, at least right now, than my legs. I can use my arms a lot better than my legs right now.

Seriously, folks. If you have kids, don't raise them to be assholes. We have enough assholes already. I'm not "crippled," I don't believe that I will "need" the chair for that long (although they're cheap enough I am actually considering buying one), so one day I'll be just another guy walking around, and nobody's going to say that I'm crippled, even though I've got the same spine today that I'll have in a year.

Can you even say anything to these people? I mean, that seems like it would even make it worse. I have no problem with "timmah!" or "jimmah!" because comedy is satire. When you look at me, and tell me that I'm "crippled," that's not satire. That's an ad hominem, very clearly.

Perhaps I should give them business cards and say, "you know what, I'm actually a fucking rocket scientist if it's alright with you." But this is goading them, and the situation is bad enough without escalation.

People are such shitty parents. It seems that generation after generation, people are born with worse manners, less integrity, less ability to  be consistently honest, or even form sentences properly and pronounce words with something approaching proper diction. Stop breeding, you assholes, when you multiply the number of assholes on the planet by squeezing out fuck-trophies, you make the whole goddamn planet less likable for the rest of us.

Jesus. Just go and get a fucking vasectomy. Do it for your country. Do it for the fucking Redskins. But please, just stop having kids. You're fucking failing. Miserably.

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12 October, 2009

Has anyone noticed

That the civilian paramilitary organizations, like DEA, FBI, and CIA, use the almost exact tactics that the terrorist/mujahedeen types do? They want to strike at eight separate ecstasy distribution points, armed with body armor, semi-auto "street-sweeper" shotguns, very, very serious .308 rifles in choppers, door demolition charges, tear gas, and they look exactly the same? When did this become okay? The posse comitatus act prevents our military from behaving this way on American soil. But these civilians are allowed to buy the same weapons and body armor I am, and they go in, armed to the goddamn teeth, to drug busts, INS busts, parole violations, bail jumpers, and so on.

These people make me fucking sick.

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11 October, 2009

My wife noticed it first

That she was no longer "up" on the gossip at work or parties and things of that nature. I find myself only discovering now that people I wanted to hear more from were already talking their jaws off on said unholy website. I really, really hate it, but how do I keep in touch with my brothers and cousins and (even my father) if they insist on using it?

What the hell is wrong with email?

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10 October, 2009

Harsh realities

I just realized I could turn in the STI on a Mazdaspeed3 and have cash left over, or I could get a 460-hp Camaro with a car payment half what I currently pay. I will lose sleep over this.

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08 October, 2009

Let me get this straight.

They hated Bush, Jr. for this same shit Obama is doing, right?

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05 October, 2009

The brace, and a catch-22

We took the brace to NYC with us (via train, not plane or automobile), and both because it is hard to pack and I was certain I would be in pain, I wore the brace on the train. It is my feeling that the brace contributed to the pain I had afterwards, which was considerable. The problem, I believe, stems from the fact that in physical therapy and on my own, I have been trying to strengthen the muscles that the brace is designed to prevent from moving.

In terms of my spine not moving, it did what it was supposed to: my spine did not move, at least not my lumbar spine. But all those muscles I'd been so carefully strengthening and limbering up were constrained in this plastic tube, preventing them from doing what I'd been teaching them to do. So, naturally, they're sore as hell. This is of course counter to what the stupid brace is supposed to do to begin with. In fact, as I stretched myself on Sunday (after missing the second day of the fucking Summit, goddammit), I got to a point where I could get out of bed, walk around, and generally felt better.

It seems to me in this case that the brace didn't allow a weaker muscle to function where otherwise it would have hurt; instead, it took a healing, useful muscle, and put it in a position where I couldn't use it, causing me more pain than I otherwise would have had. That makes me angry. I paid for that summit. I missed a venture capital panel, and Spun desperately needs VC.

On a positive note, I did get to have a sort of Sunday brunch with a friend that included a pretty good (since I last had one at Fins in San Diego) shrimp burrito. Of course, by the end of the day, either the NYC water (really hard, for some reason) or the Mexican food turned my stomach into cholera in bullet-time, so it wasn't all butterflies and unicorns.

I did enough damage this weekend that I am doubtful I will be able to do any stretching tonight or even this week for PT. I think what I need right now is anti-inflammatories at the facet joints or a local toradol administration, which the PT people may be able to do (but they're not MD's...). I think it might be time to push forward the date with the orthopede.

Just a complete and utter wreck. Oh, and my impression of NYC? Eh. It's like southeast DC grew some really big appendages and moved north. The cabs are exorbitant and no more competent than those of tijuana.

I'm going to go scrub the filth of the subway and amtrack off my poor beaten corpse.

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04 October, 2009

Singularity Summit 09 notes

I'll be publishing excerpts of my notes from the Singularity Summit here in the days to come. Overall, it was fantastic, despite my not being able to attend the last day. The first day, though I attended in a wheelchair, the activity of getting into and out of the chair, managing the (mostly pretty decent) subway, and up the stairs to the fourth-floor loft we're staying at have, taken a serious toll on my muscles. Legs, back, obliques, abdomen. I have some skeletal pain in my pelvis, but in my experience the stretches will fix that (but were super duper painful this morning and last night).

One thing's for sure, PT this week is going to be a bitch.

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